Day 6/15 – Pang to Leh – 180 kms – 8:30 AM to 4 PM
We woke up to the kerosene fumes from the cooking area. It added up to the energy drain we were experiencing, making it even harder to get back to normal. Brushing our teeth and refreshing ourselves, we had a hard time loading the saddle. It took three of us to load one saddlebag. Everyone was panting for breath right after that. The lady who owned the tent suggested that we quickly move on from Pang, which would make us feel better.
Just ahead for us through the day were two main spots, namely the Moore Plains and Taglangla. Crossing that would get us to relatively lower altitudes and much closer to Leh. Finally, we saw light at the end of the tunnel.
Starting from Pang, we were welcomed by a small hill and some truck traffic along with its fumes. Allen still continued to be in front, and stopping as less as he could. Kiran followed closely with Apar and myself at the end spending time on photos. We thought climbing the hill would show us a couple of valleys and bring us back down like it took us up. But then, we were wrong. For a moment, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Taken aback by scene, we parked the bikes for a moment and looked around at the vast area of flat land that lay in front of us. For miles together, we would see nothing but, plain flat terrain. We realized that we’d reached the Moore Plains.
We had heard people talk about it and the fantastic pictures they used to bring back. I quickly looked at the GPS, which showed an altitude around 16,000 ft. There were no actual roads except for truck trails. However, there was quite some number of trucks visible now and then. None of them bothered to follow any of the tracks. They found it more comfortable to make one.
It was so tempting to wring the throttle and just zip past, but there were sand spots in random locations, which would certainly topple the bike if driven quite fast over them. We had to cruise at slower speeds. We stopped by in the middle of the cold desert for a couple of pictures and continued move on. We spotted a couple of dogs in a dry area and wondered how they even survived there. It took us about an hour to cross the entire desert land and then, we were back in the middle of mountains.
Watching the beautiful shades of brown, we kept progressing at a good speed. Slowly we were ascending some hill as the temperature was dropping pretty quickly. Moments later, I realized that it was the winds that was the reason for it. In some time, it also started snowing a little bit. We stopped by to take a break and enjoy the beauty. Kiran’s bike started struggling to climb by then. Allen was nowhere to be seen. He was right in front, in constant motion. It was the Taglangla Pass that we were ascending. The climb was becoming difficult by the minute due to the increasing altitude and temperature drop.
Just around a corner, Apar and I spotted the other two waiting beside some big machines trying to clear up the road. We realized that there was a landslide that had blocked the roads. They estimated a half and hour wait time for them to make the passage temporarily commutable. However, we managed to talk to them and get a sneaky path across. All of us were on full riding gear with as much protection we could have from the cold. But I was shocked to see the people working with bare hands in such cold conditions.
Struggling against the winds and altitude, we made it to the top of the Pass in another 10 to 15 minutes. The other 3 bikes parked it by the small stone structure that marked the top of the pass and began clicking pictures. I chose to click mine by the board that marked it. We were at somewhere around 17,500 ft. Allen walked up to me and said that he wasn’t too comfortable at that altitude and wanted to descend at the earliest. With most of us in the same condition, we decided to move on as quickly from there as we could. I was watching the GPS constantly to see if we made it below the 16,000 mark to get some rest. The moment we did, I overtook all th
e bikes and signaled a break. As we parked the bikes by the side of the passage, we noticed a puny RX-100 and Bajaj Chetak crossing us. We were awestruck that, these machines attempted these tough terrains.
The roads were slowly becoming better after we came below the 14,000 mark. There was tar. We targeted a place called Rumtse, for lunch. From about 10 kms away, the countdown began, we were that hungry. Very close to Rumtse started greenery and great roads. This wasn’t a big town, but something like a relatively big village. It had buildings and camping sites. We found a nice dhabha to settle down for lunch. Though such luxury was there, we ended sitting outside the dhabha in the sun for the lunch. Having been in much higher altitudes in the last 48 hours, we were finding the 14,000 feet a little hot!
We just moved from that place when a few foreigners landed there for lunch. The roads beyond Rumtse had nothing to complain about. They were so smooth that we could cover about 40 kms in an hour. Considering this speed, Leh wasn’t very far away. It was less than 2 hours from where we were.
The scenery that we saw en-route was stunning. We suddenly came across a few hills that were reddish pink in color. I believe it is because of the minerals they were rich in. We were beginning to see valleys and rivers running through them. One of my personal best was the Indus River and the Nuba valley. As we passed by this small place called Karu, we noticed that the road split; one of them went to Leh and the other one was going to Pangong Tso Lake. This was one of the lakes that we wanted to visit, but needs a permit that can be got only from Leh. So we had to go to Leh without having any second thoughts.
There were more canals and army area while we neared Leh. We stopped by the board that said “Wecome to Leh” to celebrate the moment we touched the place. We were so glad that we had finally made it sans all the surprises we had to face in the last few days. We had made it with a delay of 2 days, but it really never seemed to bother us that moment.
Leh had a lot of people, especially foreigners. We inquired our way into the town market to find out a decent place to stay. As we were asking a traffic cop for some good options, a guy saw us from a distance and drove down in his car. He said that he had rooms in his hotel and that he could cater to our budget. We followed his car to his hotel. Negotiating the prices, we were only disappointed that it didn’t have TV. The moment he knew that we then had second thoughts about staying there because of that reason, he immediately arranged for one.
It had been quite a while since we had taken a proper bath. So we requested him to provide us some hot water. Meanwhile, Allen and Kiran took Allen’s bike to a mechanic shop nearby to sort out the spark plug issue. They had left he bike there, agreeing to collect it the next day. The two mentioned that they met a bulleteer in the mechanic shop who gave them a compatible spark plug for Allen to use. I could see all the excitement in Allen’s face. After the refreshments, we regrouped in the room that had the TV, and enjoyed a slideshow of all pictures in the point and shoot camera.
Having used most of the buffer days we had, we now had to create som
e buffer time for the future. As per the new plan, we decided to pay off the hotel fellow some extra bucks, who agreed to get us a permit for visiting all the places that we wanted. We decided to spend that time on local sightseeing. We had allocated one day each for visiting Pangong Tso Lake and Khardung La.